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Ready, Steady, Go!: The Smashing Rise and Giddy Fall of Swinging London Hardcover – July 23, 2002

4.1 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 1960s in Swinging London brought about a sudden a wave of bob cuts, mod struts, pink-shirted blokes and Scotch-and-cokes. Had it not happened, "nothing nothing of the modern world we share could have been the way it is," writes Levy (Rat Pack Confidential). Sure, the American journalist/film critic admits, there were youthquakes at other points and in other cities, but this was "a cultural paradigm" that erased the classes and embraced freedom of expression, exploration and entertainment. The book, which lifts its title from the era's what's-hot-now! TV hit, spotlights the places and the faces who made dowdy London fabulous: The Snapper, photographer David Bailey, credited as first on the scene; The Crimper, hair liberator Vidal Sassoon; The Draper, Mary Quant, a fearless clothes designer; The Loner, Brian Epstein, who found his calling and when he found the Beatles. "For a few years, the most amazing thing in the world was to be British, creative and young." In three main sections structured loosely around the decade's rise, saturation and dark demise, Levy deftly correlates its many moods with such markers as the latest Beatles album, nightclub or drug first it was booze, then amphetamines, pot, LSD, heroin. An invigorating book, it's packed with can't-miss material on the skirt-chasing escapades of actor flatmates Terence Stamp and Michael Caine; the acid party that jailed two Stones and one famous art dealer; the reaction of London musicians to the coming of the "prophet of their downfall," Jimi Hendrix from the States. Levy has gleaned his insights from interviews and from books, but the book reads as if he'd lived the era himself.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Levy (King of Comedy: The Life and Art of Jerry Lewis), a film critic at the Oregonian who has contributed to other major newspapers, here delivers an intriguing look at pop culture. Levy explores the rise of London from drab postwar center to the hippest city in the world by the 1960s. He writes from the perspective of the people who brought it to prominence: fashion photographer David Bailey and his wife, model Jean Shrimpton; the Beatles, provincial rockers turned clean-cut popsters; the Rolling Stones, or "anti-Beatles," middle-class youth turned blue collar terrors; pop singer/model Marianne Faithfull; hair stylist and former Israeli soldier Vidal Sassoon; actors Terrence Stamp and Michael Caine; and a constellation of other stars. Levy traces the growth of the London scene from a small group of dissolute aristocrats and tough East Enders to its fall as a victim of its own success and the emerging psychedelic movement imported from the United States. Although the treatment is popular rather than scholarly, both public and academic libraries will find the book useful to patrons wanting to learn more about 1960s culture, as well as those who want to know why their parents and grandparents laugh so hard at the "Austin Powers" films. Mark Bay, Cumberland Coll. Lib., Williamsburg, KY
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (July 23, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385498578
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385498579
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,521,477 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a fun, fascinating, engrossing portrait of one of the most exciting moments of the past several decades: London in the sixties. I think of the sixties, especially the sixties of London, as a kaleidoscope, a never ending swirl of colors and images. And just as it is impossible to capture a kaleidoscope in a single image, so it is impossible to express fully in one book the Swinging London of the sixties. READY, STEADY, GO! is a series of snapshots rather than a precise replication, but while it fails, of course, to do the period full justice, neither are the images in any sense not accurate reflections of what happened.
Shawn Levy's skills and orientation are primarily those of the biographer, and READY, STEADY, GO! is largely a series of mini-biographies that taken together contain the gist of his story. Most of the story that Levy is intent to tell is found in his recounting of the lives and careers in that decade of a few key individuals: photographer David Bailey and his superstar model Jean Shrimpton; fashion innovator Mary Quant and hair styling revolutionary Vidal Sassoon; actor Terence Stamp; Brian Epstein and the group he pushed to fame, the Beatles; Andrew Loog Oldham and the Stones, especially Mick Jagger; art dealer and promoter Robert Fraser; the unlikely superstar model Twiggy; the person who is one of the great symbols, victims, and survivors of the sixties, Mariane Faithful (read her marvelous autobiography FAITHFULL); and a supporting cast of dozens. While most of the emphasis of the book is on personalities, there is also a strong emphasis on the places they went. Levy does a marvelous job of highlighting the places all these souls went to mingle, to party, to have fun, and to be seen.
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Format: Paperback
Just to clear up a point of confusion, there are more than 40 original first-person interviews in this book, with people as diverse as Terence Stamp, Michael Caine, Lynn Redgrave, Bill Wyman, David Puttnam, Vidal Sassoon, Mary Quant, Ian McKellen, Michael Apted, Rita Tushingham, John Boorman, Woody Allen, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and assorted restauranteurs, gallery and nightclub owners, models, editors, photographers, musicians, haberdashers and so on. Yes, I did rely heavily on previously published materials -- and I explain how much and why in the acknowledgements. But there is scarcely a page without a quote or bit of information gleaned from one of these interviews. It just seemed to me that the vast ocean of information out there ought not to be ignored if it could give a clear picture of the period. Sorry if I sound a little thin-skinned, but when people take the book to task for its methodology and simply get their facts wrong, it can make you a tad edgy.
Anyway, hope you like the book.
PS: Since I couldn't post these comments without ascribing a star rating, I assigned four stars, which was the average of the previous reviewers' comments.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Shawn Levy is a superlative biographer with a smart elegant writing style. His portraits of the Stones, stylist Vidal Sassoon, and actor Terence Stamp are worth the price of the book both for offering us pithy portraits of these individuals but also as effective illustrations of how the creative turbulence of the time allowed them to break through the British class system to achieve their successes.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book a few years ago and recently re-read it, a bit shocked at myself because I couldn't remember what was in it from the first time I read it. I think part of my poor memory was caused by the fact that this book, while providing plenty of facts and information on 60s "Swinging London", contains few visuals to illustrate its essay-type text - and the photos that are included are all in black and white. This presentation doesn't really do justice to its subject matter, which is largely visual, focusing heavily on photographers like David Bailey, fashionistas like Mary Quant and Vidal Sassoon, models like Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton, and other beautiful faces like movie star Terence Stamp. So my first advice would be to read this book with a copy of some colorful photo reference, like "60s Sourcebook" or similar, by your side.

Having said that, there's a lot of interesting information here, particularly about Londoners like Stamp, Quant and Tara Browne who fell out of the limelight years ago or simply aren't around any more. The weakness of the book, as far as I'm concerned, are the portions dwelling on the overexposed denizens of the scene, such as the Beatles, the Stones, and their respective managers Brian Epstein and Andrew Loog Oldham. Perhaps the author felt it was impossible to fully capture the essence of Swinging London without delving into these admittedly important characters, but so much has been and continues to be published about the Beatles and the Stones that it's impossible to do them justice in a short section of a book without simply repeating a lot of stuff that's already been said over and over and better by others, in books specifically dedicated to those bands.
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